United Way coordinates annual work camp

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Like worker bees called to the hive, more than 350 students from across the nation are visiting the Lowcountry to lend their time and talents to helping make life better for Beaufort and Jasper county elderly, disabled and families in need.

The 15th annual Catholic HEART Work Camp program began Sunday, June 23 with young people arriving. Their work continues daily through Thursday, June 27. Friday is a free day for beach visits, touring and other activities.

While here, the campers, 100-plus adult leaders and five local volunteers will work together on at least 55 projects. Work ranges from yard work and minor repairs to installing handicap ramps.

United Way of the Lowcountry, Inc. is coordinating the Catholic HEART (Helping Everyone Attain Repairs Today) Work Camp program, said Bethany Marcinkowski, the local United Way’s director of resource development.

Student volunteers come from all over the country and will be housed at the Hardeeville School Complex. The young people will work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day and attend spiritual programs in the evenings.

“The young people do simple home repairs — painting, yard work, cleaning, repairing screens, and anything else that is difficult for an elderly or handicapped person to accomplish.  It’s a wonderful group of kids who have their hearts in the right place,” Marcinkowski said.

Seven-member teams, each with an adult leader, are assigned to the Hilton Head, Bluffton, Beaufort, Hardeeville and Ridgeland areas. Among other things they will be building several handicapped ramps.

Several local volunteers with skill and building experience will handle the larger, more complicated repair jobs at the various sites. Hilton Head Glidden is donating all the paint, as has been the case every year since the first group of HEART Work Campers arrived in 1999.

“This program’s mission is to revitalize communities and beautify homes of the elderly, the disabled and those who cannot afford the needed repairs,” Marcinkowski said. “Seeing the good attitudes, the strong work ethic and the dedication to helping others makes you appreciate these volunteers as they enrich lives across the Lowcountry.

“It is such a pleasure to see the spirit of this group — it is so genuine and real,” she added. “Young people bring these residents a burst of joy and enthusiasm, and they provide valuable volunteer assistance while meeting annual service goals. At the end of the day, our local elderly and disabled residents enjoy safer and more attractive housing.”